California Government Relations Update | McGuire Woods Consulting

COVID-19 Update

California recently updated its statewide masking policies in accordance with new guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of March 1, 2022, masks are no longer required for unvaccinated people in most settings.

In Los Angeles County, indoor masking in most public places is now strongly recommended, but not required, for vaccinated and unvaccinated people. Vaccination verification is no longer required at Outside mega-events or indoor parties of bars, lounges, nightclubs, distilleries, wineries and breweries. Vaccine verification is still required at interior mega-events with more than 1,000 people. The relaxed county rules do not change stricter local vaccination verification orders, such as those in place in the city of Los Angeles and West Hollywood. Some northern California cities also have similar rules, including Oakland, Berkeley, and San Francisco.

Masks are still required across California in schools and daycares until March 12, 2022, when they become strongly recommended. After March 12, Los Angeles County school districts may continue to require mask wearing in schools and during school activities. Wearing a mask is still required on public transportation, emergency and homeless shelters, health care facilities, correctional and detention facilities, and long-term care facilities.

What’s going on in Sacramento?

Governor Gavin Newsom will deliver his annual State of the State Address today, March 8, 2022, at 5:00 p.m. in Sacramento. Although the State of the State has been the vehicle for the Governor’s biggest public policy ideas, the state budget is increasingly being used as an alternative to push policy. Still, the state of the state is one to watch and will likely highlight the governor’s attempt to unify the California Democratic Party.

In October 2021, Governor Newsom vetoed a pilot project bill that would have allowed those convicted of drug offenses to choose between incarceration or treatment, warning that “forced treatment substance use disorders is not the solution”. However, the appetite for mental health reform has changed in Sacramento as California’s homelessness crisis continues to deteriorate despite billions of dollars invested in homeless services. Governor Newsom’s recently introduced proposal for the Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment Court (CARE Court) would push more people with addiction issues and serious psychiatric disorders into court-ordered care that includes medication and a dwelling.

Separately, California’s landmark environmental law, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), is at the center of a legal battle over housing and enrollment at UC Berkeley. Last Thursday, the California Supreme Court refused to overturn a lower court order ordering Cal to cut its fall enrollment by 3,050 students. California Supreme Court upheld Cal violated CEQA by failing to build enough housing for its growing student population, worsening homelessness, traffic and noise, and straining city services . In response, Senator Scott Wiener introduced legislation that would exempt certain campus housing projects from CEQA.

In terms of legislation, California Senate Bill 939 (Richard Pan), which relates to 340B manufacturer warrants, is of great interest to pharmaceutical manufacturers. CA 939 would require manufacturers to provide discounted drug sales of $340 billion to federally qualified health centers and entities receiving specific grants and federal funding and impose a significant financial obligation on pharmaceutical companies.

In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a bipartisan bill, California Senate Bill 1328 (21R), calls on CalPERS and CalSTRS – pension fund for employees and educators of the state – to stop investing in companies linked to the Russian and Belarusian governments. The bill would also prevent the awarding of government contracts to companies working with Russia. CalPERS and CalSTRS are the largest public pension funds in the nation and hold more than $1.5 billion in assets. The bill was referred to the Senate Rules Committee with broad bipartisan support – if passed and signed into law, it will go into effect immediately.

What’s going on in Los Angeles?

Los Angeles mayoral race heats up, as new mayoral poll from Loyola Marymount University (LMU) shows Los Angeles City Councilman Kevin De León close behind Rep. Karen Bass. The June primary is only three months away, but more than 40% of registered voters who identify themselves remain undecided. According to the LMU poll, 16% of those polled said they would vote for Rep. Bass, and about 12% said they would vote for De León if the elections were held today. Councilman Joe Buscaino, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer and real estate developer Rick Caruso are other notable candidates in the race, garnering 8%, 7% and 6% support, respectively. It should be noted that this poll was taken before Caruso officially entered the race.

Policies pushed by Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón also play a major role in the city’s mayoral race, with Caruso and Buscaino backing Gascón’s recall. Gascón’s critics blamed his “progressive” policies for an increase in homicides and shootings in Los Angeles County after his election. Its restorative justice platform has come under intense scrutiny from law enforcement officials, victims’ rights groups and even its own prosecutors in recent months. The Los Angeles County Assistant District Attorneys Association recently announced that an overwhelming majority of its 672 members voted in favor of a recall attempt. The current offering has already raised $1.8 million, with a $50,000 donation coming from Caruso.

Additionally, California state housing regulators recently rejected the city of Los Angeles’ long-term growth plan. This will force Los Angeles to rezone by mid-October 2022 to accommodate an additional 255,000 homes. The city could lose access to billions of dollars in affordable housing grants if it doesn’t make appropriate changes to its housing plan or complete rezoning by the October deadline. This loss of funding would negatively impact the production of housing for low-income and homeless residents throughout the city of Los Angeles. Notably, 190 local governments in Southern California are non-compliant and only seven have state-approved housing plans.

Bernard P. Love